Reading books about scientists is an excellent method to fuel your mind. Books about scientists are always fascinating reads that help you learn more about scientific discoveries and experiments that changed the world, from Oppenheimer’s physics behind the invention of nuclear war to Stephen Hawking’s math that helped us understand the Big Bang.
The best books about scientists are those that take you inside the mind of a genius at work. You can read about their motives, problems, and victories. You can also learn about the scientific discovery process, from the first inklings of a novel discovery through the dispute of a paradigm shift and the victory of a Nobel Prize.
Here are some of the best books about scientists that can help you appreciate the world around you in new ways – and motivate you to challenge the status quo.
1. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
With “Barbenheimer” season upon us, now is the ideal opportunity to read the authoritative biography of one of the most difficult personalities in American science history: J. Robert Oppenheimer. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin explores the rise and fall of the brilliant physicist who invented the world’s first atomic bomb. The New York Times Bestseller uses Oppenheimer as a window into the Cold War’s creation.
2. Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout
This National Book Award Finalist tells the biography of famed scientist Marie Curie and her husband and collaborator Pierre Curie through archival photos, images, and clippings, as well as stunning line drawings. This “sumptuously illustrated” book is praised by reviewers as a must-read for science fans of all ages. A major motion picture was also inspired by the novel.
3. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon, NASA’s black female mathematicians employed math to make it possible. Hidden Figures is based on the incredible true story of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and other black mathematicians whose calculations fueled American spaceflight.
The Academy Award-nominated film based on this #1 New York Times bestseller starred Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and Kevin Costner.
4. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
Meet the most dynamic combo in Victorian London: Charles Babbage, the unrealized inventor of the computer, and his partner, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the odd proto programmer and daughter of Lord Byron. While this fascinating graphic novel veers into historical fiction by picturing a world in which Babbage and Lovelace’s theoretical machines had been transformed into Victorian-era computers, it is nonetheless jam-packed with facts about the duo of very real geniuses.
5. A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr.
A Beautiful Mind explores the turbulent life of Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash, Jr. in a story that is both painful and inspiring. Decades after his brilliant career was ruined by crippling schizophrenia, Nash defied the odds to return to teaching and obtain one of the top prizes in his industry for his work on Game Theory.
6. Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
Wu Chien Shiung overcome prejudice and bigotry to become known as the “Queen of Physics,” with research lauded by Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer. She would later become Princeton University’s first female instructor and the American Physical Society’s first female president. This exciting, entertaining, and wonderfully illustrated book is ideal for any young scientist.
7. On the Move: A Life
Oliver Sacks’s report card when he was twelve years old said, “Sacks will go far if he does not go too far.” The late neurologist and science writer discusses his challenges and achievements in this honest and humorous book, which inspired him to help countless patients and revolutionize the way the world saw the human mind.
8. Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America
This book tells the story of Operation Paperclip, in which the US government smuggled Third Reich scientists into powerful American jobs. This decades-long covert initiative transported 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians to the United States, along with their families, including Nazi party members. This book explains how characters like Wernher von Braun’s legacy cast a dark shadow on the history of American invention.
9. Einstein: His Life and Universe
When it comes to narrating the life stories of public personalities, Walter Isaacson—who has authored biographies of Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, and others—consistently hits the nail on the head. His Albert Einstein biography is no exception. This extensively researched and thoroughly entertaining book demonstrates how Einstein’s rebellious mentality permitted his great research—and how his conclusions helped define the modern era, for better or worse.
10. The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World
Stephen J. Gould, a well-known paleontologist, has described Mary Anning as “probably the most important unsung (or inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of paleontology.” Anning, who was born in 1799, spent her childhood hunting for fossils as a source of revenue for her family. Her numerous paleontological discovery drew the attention of museums and scholars, inspiring and supporting Charles Darwin’s study on evolution. If you want you can also read – 20 Inventions that Changed the World Forever.